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(article, Stephanie Beechem)

Wondering what country your lovely T-bone once called home? You may be in luck. Last week, the behemoth 2007 Farm Bill — which funds everything from school nutrition programs to food stamps to farm subsidies — passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. Included in the bill is a provision that requires country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on red meat, produce, and peanuts beginning as soon as October 2008.

The updated COOL provision mandates three separate categories of labeling. The simplest will be a U.S. domestic label, which indicates that the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S. Two other types of labels, denoting projects of mixed origin, are slightly more complicated. For example, a cow that was born and raised in Canada and then slaughtered in the U.S. would include both countries on its label. Products such as ground meat, which often contain meat from multiple animals, will be labeled differently, with a list of all countries where each of the animals may have originated. 

[%image feed-image float=left width=250 caption="A mixed-origin label for beef."]

The American Meat Institute, the meat industry’s largest lobby, has long opposed country-of-origin labeling. But in the wake of the food-import scandals of the past year, it appears that the U.S. food industry as well as the public may be warming to the idea .

A July 2007 poll in Consumer Reports suggested that a staggering 92 percent of Americans would like to see country-of-origin labeling on their meat and produce. A recent New York Times editorial likewise endorsed Americans' right to know the origins of their food. 

And the Washington Post recently talked to a representative of the Food Marketing Institute, which represents large grocery retailers and supermarkets, who said that the latest COOL labeling provisions were a significant improvement over older versions of the law. 

Now we just have to wait and see what the U.S. Senate, which has yet to vote on the Farm Bill, thinks of COOL. In the meantime, check out the Ethicurean's roundup of media coverage on the Farm Bill.

Also on Culinate: An article about supermarket labels.


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